MLB award-winning New York Mets and Yankees’ monster rosters are ready to rock Gotham City during the baseball season of 2020.
New York Mets and Yankees fans are euphoric. Major player additions were baked in the MLB hot stove oven and served on a championship engraved platter. But which team will be toasting bottles of bubbly after winning the 2020 World Series?
The Yankees needed a “Cole Blooded” shut-down starter. Gerrit Cole was delivered to the clean shaving Yankee family for a king’s ransom: $324 million.
The Mets needed a bullpen that stopped committing burglary by stealing pitching gems. Enter Dellin Betances with an incentive-laden contract valued at $10.5 million.
Before we dig deeper into the hope and hype in 2020, let’s take a walk down memory lane.
2019 – A Year in Review
The Yankees were Major League Baseball (MLB) divisional champs on the cusp of playing in the World Series. Their season ended unceremoniously by a 6-4 score in Game 6 in the American League Championship Series (ALCS) to the sign-stealing Houston Astros. Avid team followers moaned, “The Astros stole our destiny.”
Revenge – oh sweet revenge – echoes in Yankeesland corridors, bars, and bodegas. The missing piece to the World Championship puzzle, a dominant starting pitcher, was taken from their arch-rivals. With Cole’s impressive 20-5 record, the Yankees grabbed 20 wins from the Astros. Landing Cole has a poetic ring to it: Steal this Astros!
Across town, the beleaguered Mets salvaged their schizophrenic season on a high note. Improbably, Dominic Smith discarded his injury-induced rust and jacked a three-run homer in extra innings to beat the Braves 6-4. It was an inspirational season ending and a harbinger of MLB awards to follow.
The Mets got busy under the watch of general manager Brodie Van Wagenen. First, they fired manager Mickey Callaway. Then they rolled the dice and hired Carlos Beltran, a greenhorn with a hall-of-fame playing career resume. They proceeded to load up on bargain-basement former pitching aces: Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha. Miraculously, they renegotiated Yoenis Cespedes’ festering $110 million contract at a fraction of its value: a measly $6 million base salary this year. Enter Betances, a 101-mph injured flamethrower for $10.5 million. Add in a defensive wizard in center field, Jake Marinsick, and the Mets fortified another key position. Can the addition of a pitch-framing defensive catcher with some bat thump be in the works?
Must Watch Teams in 2020
The 2020 season can’t begin soon enough in New York City. Mets fans believe they are the “must watch” team. Yankees fans are convinced that Cole will unlock the vault holding their World Series Championship rings.
The Mets field a cast of colorful characters who play great baseball in fits-and-spurts. Their off-season highlights were on display when Pete “Polar Bear” Alonso won Rookie of the Year honors on Nov. 11, and Jacob “deGrominator” deGrom won his second consecutive Cy Young Award the following day.
The Mets pitching ace posted a 2.43 ERA over 204 innings, whiffed 255 batters, and finished with a deceiving 11-8 record. For FANGRAPHS fans, his 7.6 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) ranked fifth-best in all of baseball.
Alonso went from teetering on the opening day roster bubble to setting multiple Mets and MLB records. This Bunyanesque figure became an all-star, set a new rookie home run record with 53 moonshots, drove in 120 runs, and batted 260. Even his nefarious reputation as a ham-handed first baseman was debunked.
However, Alonso’s transcendent moments came off the baseball field. His charitable act of donating 10% of the Home Run Derby million-dollar-purse to the Wounded Warriors and Tunnel to Towers Foundation’s captivated a national audience. Then he ordered “9/11 Never Forget” cleats for his teammates in a September 11 game that memorized the 18th anniversary of that emotional day. In the process, he hoodwinked MLB with his boyishly inspired act of rebellion against its draconian merchandising rules. He subsequently donated his cleats to the September 11 Memorial and Museum while being besieged by adoring fans (I was one of them).
Looking Ahead to the 2020 Season
Yes, the Yankees will once again win more than 100 games, fill the stadium with over 3 million fans, and bludgeon the hapless Baltimore Orioles like a pinata. They may even improve over last year’s 17-2 record against the overmatched birds laying scoreboard eggs in Camden Yards. The signing of Gerrit Cole to a record-breaking contract creates a tragedy of riches. Making Cole the highest-paid pitcher in major league history will excite Yankees fans and incite opposing teams. Echoing a phrase from the George Steinbrenner era, “There goes the Yankees buying another pennant again,” will be yelled in stadiums across America.
As for the Mets, they have compelling storylines waiting to be told. Will “The deGrominator” win his third consecutive Cy Young award? Will “The Polar Bear” pass the MLB home run total of Babe Ruth (60) and even challenge the controversial record amassed by Barry Bonds (72)? Will “The Flying Squirrel” win a batting title? Will Noah “Thor” Syndergaard control his lightning, pulverize bats, and become a second ace? And – drumroll please – the canary in the coal mine question must be asked, “Will the bullpen soar or sink (stink) again?”
Reversal of Bullpen Fortunes Await
The Mets bullpen blew 27 save opportunities (BLSV) last year. Betances is a wonderful addition, with a health asterisk. If Edwin “Sugar” Diaz redeems himself from his salty fall from grace, he will win back angry fans with the sweet taste of shutdown saves. If Diaz, Betances, Seth Lugo and the rest of the bullpen reduce the number of blown saves by 10, the Mets should win 96 games and a division title in 2020. Recently, ESNY reported that FANGRAHS projected the Mets would have the best bullpen in the National League.
The Future According to Yogi
“The future ain’t what it used to be,” is one of Yogi Berra’s famous quotes. The Yankees look like a sure thing though. However, we all know that there is no such thing as a sure thing. Or is there?
The Mets aren’t a sure thing except in one category: drama. Their upcoming baseball season is filled with anticipation, hope and a lurking sense of dread. That is the Mets fan mantra.
Will the Yankees or Mets wear World Series Championship rings in 2020? For the Bronx Bombers, the answer will be determined by Cole proving he is the missing piece to their puzzle.
The Mets are more complicated. They have lots of moving pieces in Alonso, deGrom, Syndergaard, McNeil, Dias, Betances, Lugo and others having career years. Maybe even Cespedes will make a statement on the field – not off it.
Yet, one person holds the key to opening the Mets World Series ring vault. His name is Carlos Beltrán. His maturation from greenhorn tease to a managerial steal will define the Mets’ ultimate success.
The 2020 season will be must-watch entertainment for Mets and Yankees fans. My dream is to see deGrom outpitch Cole in Game 7 of the World Series. What a game that would be!
Byline: Richard Dodd is a lifelong New York Mets fan and launched the MetsWhisperer website and blog. He is a published author. His personal essays have been placed in the NY Daily News, Newsday and the Huffington Post. He volunteers and leads tours at the September 11 Memorial site. He can be contacted at [email protected] and www.metswhisperer.com.